It Is One Thing That The Australians Still Cannot Locate Missing Malaysian MH370 — But The Wreckage Of A Hot Air Balloon In Eastern Virginia?

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.


Anura Guruge

Just SOME of the Related posts:
>> Bogus Australian claims …
>>Apr. 24, 2014.
>> MH370 Paradox Redux —
>> Apr. 7, 2014.
>> MH370 FARCE — Apr. 2, 2014.
>> Maldives & Sri Lanka —
Mar. 15, 2014.
++++ Search on ‘MH370‘ for other related posts >>>>

Click to access NBC coverage or Google for plenty more.

Click to access NBC coverage or Google for plenty more.

Longleat House -- part of the famous estate which also includes a legendary drive-through game park.

Longleat House — part of the famous estate which also includes a legendary drive-through game park.

We are talking Eastern Virginia — not the Indian ocean. Not only is it fairly heavily populated but it is the nerve center of so much U.S. military and defense operations and locations! Don’t we have every inch of Virginia covered from space 24×7? Just seems incongruous.

I do actually have an interesting story about losing a balloon. No, no, not a toy balloon — but a BIG, 4 person hot air balloon, which I think was named the ‘Protagonist‘. This was a long time ago, 1983 — and I was the Customer Support Manager for Northern Telecom (NT) Data Systems in the U.K. One of the secretaries that worked their had a (much older) husband who was an avid balloonist. I used to socialize with them and got infected by the ballooning bug. He took me to a ballooning meet at Longleat. It rained all weekend so there was no ballooning but the social aspect was, as is invariably the case in the U.K., great. I met two folks who I had gone to school with in Mill Hill a decade earlier. I, mainly because the weather in the U.K. can be so precarious and because I was also crazy busy finishing my first book, never got to go up with him or for that matter in any balloon. But twice I got literally roped into — and there are lot of ropes in ballooning — to lead the ground crew to recover his balloon. At least then, in the early 1980s, hot air balloonist did NOT use radios — of any form. There were no cell phones. You tracked balloons using physics and maps — good ol’ U.K. Ordnance Survey Maps.

Before the balloon takes off the ground crew ‘chief’ [ME in this case] and the pilot would scatter some grass into the wind to determine the direction of the wind. We would, of course, know where we were. Then on an Ordnance Survey Map for the area we would mark where we are and then take a ruler and draw a line stretching out a long way — the direction of the line being that of the way the wind was blowing. That line would, in theory, represent where and how the balloon would fly. Then you looked at the map and worked out which ROADS the line intersected. Your job as the ground crew chief was to get the recovery vehicles to these intersecting roads, at the right time, to basically follow the balloon and get as close as possible when the balloon landed. It is a logical solution and it works.

An example of an iconic British Ordnance Survey Map -- the name denoting who made these extremely detailed and beautiful maps.

An example of an iconic British Ordnance Survey Map — the name denoting who made these extremely detailed and beautiful maps.

This was an unusually hot day in July 1983. Two balloons were taking off. I think the reason that I did not go aloft that day was that they needed a ‘responsible’ adult to lead the ground crew — ME! It gets better. The rest of the crew were all young ladies — many of them scantily dressed given the atypically hot day (which also meant that there were some major thermals that could buffet the balloons). The main recovery vehicle that I was meant to drive was a ‘new’, fancy VW van — and I would be towing the small trailer. We also had a Land Rover driven by a young lady — who would follow the VM van. The plan was simple. I had done one recovery a couple of weeks earlier without any problem. So we got the two balloons in the air.

We piled into the two vehicles and started to proceed to the first ‘mapped’ intersection. I had a young lady, in a very, very short pair of shorts standing on the passenger seat next to me looking out through the sunroof. She was able to follow the balloons for a few minutes. Southern England, Hertfordshire, is beautifully lush. Soon trees got in the way. That is expected. We get to the first ‘intersection’. I pull over. The girl in the short shorts is scanning the sky. I think her father was piloting the other balloon. Nothing. We wait for a few minutes hoping to see the balloons drift into view. Nothing. Now I have, I think, 8 girls out there scanning for two balloons. We are having fun. As this was (still the) swinging U.K. I am sure we had some chilled libation at hand. No problem. Lets go to the next intersection. Ditto. Nada. We drive through a village. Beautiful day. Folks are out, outside a pub, enjoying the day. I ask them if they had seen two balloons. Yes, they had. They had gone that way a few minutes ago. That was where we too thought they would be going. This went on for nearly two hours. We just couldn’t spot the balloons but we would meet folks who had ‘just’ seen them go by. The accusation that we didn’t see the balloons because I was messing around with the girls, alas, was untrue.

Eventually we did find them. They had been on the ground for about 40 minutes. They, the pilots and the passengers, were not amused though they were sipping chilled champagne as was all part of the tradition and culture. They were sure that I had stopped the VW for a quick ‘party’. But no harm was done. The girls vouched for my honor and my efforts to find the damn balloons. We all had a good time.

So when it comes to balloons — I can still find them even if they go missing for a couple of hours.

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